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Entrepreneurship

How The Internet of Things Is Changing Our World

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Everybody talks about the Internet of Things, the IoT… but how is the IoT actually going to change our lives?

The Internet of Things is creating a new world, a quantifiable and measureable world, where people and businesses can manage their assets in better informed ways, and can make more timely and better informed decisions about what they want or need to do. This new connected world brings with it fundamental changes to society and to consumers. By sensing our surrounding environment, the IoT will create many practical improvements in our world, increasing our convenience, health and safety, while at the same time improving energy efficiency and comfort. The IoT will be a new source of wealth creation.

IoT devices can be classified in three categories: (1) wearables, (2) smart home devices, and (3) M2M devices. The first two categories are the most important for consumers. ‘Wearables’ are the devices that people carry with them, which usually connect via Bluetooth to a smart phone, and from there to the Internet. This category includes devices such as smart watches, fitness bands and devices to help people to live more ’mindfully’ – increasing the wearer’s awareness of how well they sleep, how much they move around, monitoring their vital signs, etc.

Smart home devices are also part of the IoT and usually connect to the Internet via ZigBee low power wireless communication and the home router. These include all domestic devices, from lights and light switches to motion sensors, thermostats, door locks and automated curtains. Via its WiFi connection to the router, the smart phone also becomes an online dashboard and control device for Smart Home applications.

The third category, M2M (Machine to Machine) devices, comprises devices that are directly connected to the cellular network, such as cars that can report their location (in case of an accident or theft), or vending machines that can call in when their stocks are running low.

Many households and businesses have thermostats, weather stations, smart lighting, security and electronic door locks, the majority of which are not currently interconnected. They are connected – but not to each other. The weather station does not provide information to the thermostat about the climate outside. The security system is not connected to the indoor motion sensors, nor to the electronic door locks (it does not automatically lock the forgotten back door when the inhabitants go out). In the future, all these systems will be interconnected, providing information to each other, and reacting accordingly. We are currently in an emerging state of the IoT, with individual vertical applications that operate as islands, and serve independent applications (such as security alarms, door locking, etc.). However, the real IoT will emerge when these applications cooperate, working together, and begin to use each other’s ’awareness’. That is when the true IoT avalanche will start.

The key component of the IoT – whether wearables or smart home devices – is not the sensor, but the application. Connecting the sensors is difficult, but extracting information from data is the essence. Useful information extracted from the data can coach people by reaffirming when things go as planned or by alerting or taking action if something goes wrong; and data analytics can be used to compare situations, to coach and to provide feedback to help make improvements. This is slowly starting to dawn on manufacturers and service providers alike. People are interested in the IoT if it helps them to improve aspects of their lives. Improvements are not achieved by sensors alone: a completely different way of thinking is required, and it will take some time for the new paradigm to be fully embraced.

Privacy and security are key, together with data ownership. Note, these are not IoT issues, but general internet issues that are amplified by the growth of new applications. These issues already exist for the internet of people, and industry and government bodies are slowly starting to recognize them and take action.

The growth of the IoT can be compared with the growth of the automobile industry. Picture the first cars hitting the road: there were no freeways, no road signs, no rules, no driving licences. Pedestrians did not know to get out of the way. Drivers did not know how to take turns at intersections. Neither drivers nor pedestrians understood the risks and liabilities, giving no consideration to liability and insurance.

We are currently at a similar stage with the IoT. Just as it took decades before all required infrastructure was in place around motor vehicles, it will take quite some time before it is in place around the Internet. Once I led the engineering team that successfully brought WiFi to the Mac laptop for Steve Jobs. After his team had achieved this, all others followed. Now WiFi is everywhere – but this took time and work. Similarly, in the context of the Internet and Internet of Things, there is a growing awareness that we need rules, training, legislation and enforcement. We are just starting to learn what might be needed.

The IoT will change the world in an even more profound way than has the Internet. If we ask our children today how the world existed before Internet, they are speechless. They have no comprehension of how people could communicate or even live their lives without the common place tools we have today. The same will happen with the IoT.

A decade from now, we will be dependent on the knowledge derived from the continuous stream of data from our wearables and our smart home devices, and we will have no idea how we managed the world and our lives before. We will be able to make better informed, more accurate and more timely decisions; and decisions that will improve our lives, save us money, and may even save our planet. The IoT will make the difference.

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About the Author 

This article was written by Cees Links, Founder & CEO GreenPeak Technologies. See more at www.greenpeak.com.

Entrepreneurship

What Kills A Startup

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1 – Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback

Ignoring your users is a tried and true way to fail. Yes that sounds obvious but this was the #1 reason given for failure amongst the 32 startup failure post-mortems we analyzed. Tunnel vision and not gathering user feedback are fatal flaws for most startups. For instance, ecrowds, a web content management system company, said that “ We spent way too much time building it for ourselves and not getting feedback from prospects — it’s easy to get tunnel vision. I’d recommend not going more than two or three months from the initial start to getting in the hands of prospects that are truly objective.”

2 – Building a solution looking for a problem, i.e., not targeting a “market need”

Choosing to tackle problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was often cited as a reason for failure. Sure, you can build an app and see if it will stick, but knowing there is a market need upfront is a good thing. “Companies should tackle market problems not technical problems” according to the BricaBox founder. One of the main reasons BricaBox failed was because it was solving a technical problem. The founder states that, “While it’s good to scratch itches, it’s best to scratch those you share with the greater market. If you want to solve a technical problem, get a group together and do it as open source.”

3 – Not the right team

A diverse team with different skill sets was often cited as being critical to the success of a starti[ company. Failure post-mortems often lamented that “I wish we had a CTO from the start, or wished that the startup had “a founder that loved the business aspect of things”. In some cases, the founding team wished they had more checks and balances. As Nouncers founder stated, “This brings me back to the underlying problem I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made.” Wesabe founder also stated that he was the sole and quite stubborn decision maker for much of the enterprises life, and therefore he can blame no one but himself for the failures of Wesabe. Team deficiencies were given as a reason for startup failure almost 1/3 of the time.

4 – Poor Marketing

Knowing your target audience and knowing how to get their attention and convert them to leads and ultimately customers is one of the most important skills of a successful business. Yet, in almost 30% of failures, ineffective marketing was a primary cause of failure. Oftentimes, the inability to market was a function of founders who liked to code or build product but who didn’t relish the idea of promoting the product. The folks at Devver highlighted the need to find someone who enjoys creating and finding distribution channels and developing business relationship for the company as a key need that startups should ensure they fill.

5 – Ran out of cash

Money and time are finite and need to be allocated judiciously. The question of how should you spend your money was a frequent conundrum and reason for failure cited by failed startups. The decision on whether to spend significantly upfront to get the product off the group or develop gradually over time is a tough act to balance. The team at YouCastr cited money problems as the reason for failure but went on to highlight other reasons for shutting down vs. trying to raise more money writing:

The single biggest reason we are closing down (a common one) is running out of cash. Despite putting the company in an EXTREMELY lean position, generating revenue, and holding out as long as we could, we didn’t have the cash to keep going. The next few reasons shed more light as to why we chose to shut down instead of finding more cash.

The old saw was that more companies were killed by poor cashflow than anything else, but factors 1, 2 and 4 probably are the main contributing factors to that problem. No cash, no flow. The issue No 3 – the team – is interesting, as if I take that comment ” I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made” and think about some of the founders and startup CEOs I know, I can safely say that the main way that any decision was made was by agreeing with them – it was “my way or the highway”. I don’t therefore “buy” the team argument, I more buy the willingness of the key decision makers to change when things are not working (aka “pivoting” – point 9).

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About the Author

This article was produced by Broadsight. Broadsight is an attempt to build a business not just to consult to the emerging Broadband Media / Quadruple Play / Web 2.0 world, but to be structured according to its open principles. see more.

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Callum Connects

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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